Fast fashion today is now the world’s 2nd most polluting industry. Americans on average waste almost 40 kgs of textiles every year. A staggering 400% increase than 20 years ago.
Livia Firth, Executive Producer of “True Cost” talked about disposable fashion and its massive effect on our natural resources.
Key challenges, Directly impacted by Fast Fashion
If clothing is responsible for a whole swag of issues, what can you do about it? In the next few sections, we will cover the three basic issues with today’s fast fashion and clothing industry. We will also look at the different ways you can fix them.
- Minimise – Cut back on how much you buy and the way that you buy them.
- Organic – As you will find out, clothing is extremely toxic and destroying the planet in more ways than you can imagine.
- Fair Trade – Most of your clothing is made by the most vulnerable people from developing countries.
When you know how you can start living a more sustainable lifestyle!
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Although there are a growing number of organisations bringing light to the impact of fast fashion, we need to spread more awareness to significantly reduce these figures. Consider these statistics below;
- 400% more clothes are bought now than 20 years ago
- There are 40 million garment workers in developing countries who do not have security or protection
- 80 billion pieces of clothing are bought every year
- Most of the waste is non-biodegradable and ends up as landfill
For more facts and an in-depth look at the fast fashion clothing industry, you can download the documentary “The True Cost“
Most of these problems do not impact directly developed Countries. The manufacturing, waste and by-products of the garment industry are mostly shipped out to developing Countries. Fast fashion is having a devastating impact on these places and the people that work there.
Take the example of the resources required to manufacture just a single T-Shirt.
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Unlike other global environmental concerns that are more straightforward to address, sustainable clothing branches out to multiple issues. By spreading awareness, wew hope that more people will buy better when it comes to fashion.
People purchase 400 percent more clothing today than 20 years ago, largely because of the dropping cost of fashion. Once upon a time, there were two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Fast forward to 2017 and the fashion industry is churning out 52 “micro-seasons” per year. With new trends coming out every week, the goal of fast fashion is for consumers to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible.
We carelessly buy without the intent to keep.
Ethical Treatment of Workers
Industry estimates suggest that up to 60 % of garment production is sewn at home by informal workers, according to author Lucy Siegle in her book, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?. These workers do not get protection from health and safety laws and live mostly below the poverty line. Big fashion brands are starting to become sensitive and transparent when it comes to understanding supplier conditions but until it becomes a global standard, it is a priority that must be addressed.
Combining cotton with synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, acrylic and spandex helps to increase the volume of textile production that cotton suppliers cannot fully supply. Clothing manufacturers favour synthetic materials over natural because of low costs. It has other features like water repellent, resilience, stretch and shrink resistance.
But virgin synthetic materials require an estimated 70 million barrels of oil for production. New reports are highlighting more serious issues with the washing of synthetic fabrics. Every time you wash your clothes, up to 700,000 tiny fibres of plastic end up in the waterways. There are now more pieces of plastic in the oceans that there is marine life!
Cotton is not a sustainable crop at the quantities we use today. In terms of intensive irrigation, its effects are now felt by countries where water sources are slowly drying up. Cotton needs so much water that soil fertility degrades over time due to salinization. The use of pesticides and large amounts of chemicals also pollute the soil. This all eventually ends up as pollution in the rivers and oceans.
Imagine the impact of an industry producing an estimated 26 million tonnes and growing annually.
With climate change affecting the weather in different regions around the world, water resources have become more unpredictable. Cotton farming alternatives must be given more importance for sustainability especially in the fashion world.
The processing of Leather and Textile Dyes have been identified globally as the 2nd most polluting industry in the world by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA). Both are highly toxic and unregulated in most developing Countries.
- Leather tanning uses cheap chromium which is usually disposed of, untreated, in local water sources together with other chemicals and coal-based materials.
- Dye producers in India and China are often found dumping untreated water waste into rivers and seas. Around 0.5 trillion gallons of water are used for dye production in China alone. 40 % of their water usage polluted with chemicals gets dumped into waterways.
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Marketing has led us to believe that there are now 52 seasons in a year and every year is different. Sustainable clothing is an oxymoron unless you change the way you buy.
Do Your Research
Spend time understanding where your brand acquires the materials for their products. Contact them when it comes to topics of sustainability. Why? Because, when you make enough noise, they listen.
Do some research and shop only at companies you know are ethical. Searching on-line or asking the vendor will quickly yield results. There are a lot of brands trying to provide more sustainable clothing lines. Below are some of the more famous brands.
- Patagonia – Outdoor wear (Pledge to do no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis)
- H&M Conscious – Fashion Clothing (Sustainable line from a decidedly unsustainable company)
- Style Saint – Women’s Clothing (Uses 99 percent less water, sustainable fabrics, 2,000-percent higher factory wages)
- Stella MacCartney – Women’s Clothing (Animal free, certified-sustainable wood and renewable resources)
- People Tree (UK) – Sustainable and fair trade fashion
- Shift to Nature – Certified organic and sustainable clothing with free shipping worldwide.
Also look out for organisations that are trying to control abuse and mistreatment in the fashion industry.
- Fairtrade – A global organisation working to secure a better deal for farmers and workers
- Cruelty-free down – Tracking ethical treatment of birds used for down stuffing
- Krochet Kids – Crochet garments made through a unique model, empowering the women of Northern Uganda and Peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge. Aiming to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
- Made By? – An award-winning not-for-profit organisation, acting to improve environmental and social conditions within the fashion industry.
- Labour Behind the Label – Campaigning for garment workers’ rights worldwide
- Sustainable Apparel Coalition – Working to ensure no unnecessary environmental harm. To create a positive impact on the people and communities associated with the manufacture of clothing.
- Better Shoes Foundation – A clickable map listing sustainable and ethical shoe manufacturers and brands
- The Good Shopping Guide – A world leader in ethical shopping information
- Balu – Balu translates the web into ethical choices for the conscious consumer.
For more organisations – click here
We will also be releasing some Apps soon that will help you search for your favourite ethical and sustainable products.
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The Better Shoes Foundation
Was set up to promote sustainable development and practices across the global shoe industry. It provides an open-source platform where people can be inspired by the advances others are making.
They have an incredible amount of information relating to shoes. Please spend some time on their site and see for yourself the issues and possibilities we have available.